By James Schaff, President
Changes in Portland FAIR Access in Renting Ordinance
The Portland City Council voted on June 29, 2022, to roll back several more burdensome regulations that were passed as part of the Fair Access in Renting Ordinance (FAIR) in 2020. The Ordinance created sweeping changes to Portland in rental laws and impacted Landlords’ ability to select and screen tenants, charge for damages, and access the condition of a unit on move-in.
Many of these regulations were extremely burdensome and resulted in a net reduction of rental housing in the city. A recent report released by EcoNorthwest found that the city of Portland lost 3,987 detached rental units between 2017 and 2020. The Metro area lost 6,417 units during that same time period due to the stringent regulations. This is about one year’s housing supply. Another measure of the impacts of these regulations is that Portland stock of single family rental housing declined by 14% while the Metro area outside of Portland’s supply declined by 7%. (1)
The current changes are a result of a settlement of a case in which several landlords sued the City of Portland about various aspects of FAIR. The resulting changes include the following. (2)
Applications and Screening
Tenants who were initially denied but were successful in an appeal must be prequalified for any rental opportunities at any of their properties for which they would qualify anywhere, not just in the city of Portland, for a period of three months. Previously it only required you to have them prequalified for opportunities in the City of Portland.
Elimination of Depreciation Schedule
FAIR required landlords to provide depreciated values for all items that a tenant could be charged for, which created an administrative nightmare. The revision eliminates the depreciation schedule from the requirements. Landlords still must supply an inventory of items to the tenant on move-in, but structural elements are now excluded from the requirement including walls, subflooring, wiring, roofing, plumbing, heating, and other building systems.
Repair/Replacement of Flooring Material
FAIR had limited charges for flooring damage to “discrete impacted areas.” This has been changed to include general area of the dwelling unit where repair or replacement is required which may include an entire room, closet, hallway, stairway or other defined space, because many small patches did not make sense.
Reduction in Damages for Violation of FAIR
The original ordinance allowed for damages to be awarded to a tenant for a violation of FAIR of two times the deposit. This has been reduced to $250.00 plus actual damages, attorneys’ fees, and costs.
Even with these improvements, the FAIR ordinance remains challenging to deal with and limits landlords’ ability to manage their property effectively and profitably in the city of Portland and could be considered part of the reason the homeless rate in Portland has skyrocketed. It has been proven in the past, that individual investors are more flexible with tenants than larger property owners. Nevertheless, the changes are a much-needed improvement to the rental environment in the Portland Metro area.
Update on Eviction Moratorium
After over two years of limitations on evictions and significant tenant protections for nonpayment of rent, Landlords may finally be getting some control back on non-payment of rent. Until July 1, 2022, a tenant could avoid termination and eviction for nonpayment of monthly rent if they applied for emergency rental assistance and provided documentation of their application to their landlord prior to July 1, 2022. That timeframe has expired, and Landlords now have the ability to evict tenants for nonpayment of rents by following the steps outlined in the Oregon Landlord Tenant Act (as modified by the different counties).
As of July 1, 2022, submission of documentation of an application for rental assistance will only apply to tenants who previously had provided proof that they had applied for assistance prior to July 1, 2022. The ongoing protections for those tenants are dependent on when they delivered documents to the housing provider, not when they applied for rental assistance. However, there may be protections until Sept 30, 2022 if tenants can show their landlord they applied for help before June 30, 2022.
Other protections still apply including a requirement to provide 10-day notices on all non-payment of rent notices to renters and providing specific disclosures and information about rental assistance and eviction protection with all non-payment notices.
Gradually we are returning to a market where non-payment of rent may eventually result in being able to evict a tenant.
As always, the regulations continue to evolve, so we urge you to contact an attorney for legal advice if you wish to evict a tenant in the current regulatory environment, penalties for mistakes continue to be very high.